Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Indiana Supreme Court in Accord with Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals Upholding Right to Work Law – Could Illinois Be Far Behind?

In 2012, then Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, a Republican, signed legislation that made Indiana a right to work state – meaning that workers in union shops were neither required to join the union or pay fair share dues. Since that time both the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 and the Steelworker’s Union each filed suits to declare the legislation unconstitutional on the grounds that it deprived unions pay for their work (unions contend that fair share dues pay them for the benefits that a union provides an employee who is covered by a collective bargaining agreement even if he or she doesn’t choose to be a union member). Two of the three suits were filed in state court and one was filed in federal court. Earlier this year, the Seventh Circuit held that the legislation was not unconstitutional while the state court judges found the opposite to be true.

Just last week the Indiana Supreme Court reversed the lower court finding and held in accord with the Seventh Circuit that the state’s right to work legislation is constitutional. It is expected that the remaining case on the same issue will be dismissed.

So, why should employers and workers alike in states like Illinois care about this? Right to work legislation may pop up in more states such as Illinois who have recently elected Republican governors, like Illinois Governor-elect Bruce Rauner. A right to work initiative could take hold and curtail the power of unions by reducing their dues collection and shifting the balance between unions and employers. And in Illinois, we know that the Seventh Circuit will uphold it.

As for Mitch Daniels, he left the Governor’s office and went on to become the President of Purdue University where he has frozen tuition for two years running while completing a massive building initiative. Will Rauner compete with that in Illinois?